Flaming Jack-o’-lanterns Light up the Night

pumpkins

[misterdob] wanted to spice up his Halloween decor, so he built these flaming concrete jack -o’-lanterns to decorate his walkway. He started with the classic plastic jack-o’-lanterns that trick-or-treaters have been using to collect candy for years. [misterdob] filled the plastic pumpkins halfway with concrete mix, then dropped in metal coffee cans. He then filled the pumpkins up to the top with concrete, shaking them up a bit to avoid air pockets.

Once the concrete had set, [misterdob] cut away the plastic revealing nearly perfect concrete duplicates. He used acid stain to color his creations – though it looks like he missed a spot or two.

We have to disagree with [misterdob's] choice of fuels. In fact, we think he was out of his gourd when he picked gasoline for his flaming pumpkins. Seriously though, gasoline is a horrible choice for a fire pot like this for a multitude of reasons. Gas has a particularly foul odor and its fumes are explosive. If a Halloween prankster were to try kicking one of the pumpkins over, not only would they have a broken foot, they’d also be covered in burning gas.

Thankfully, the folks on [misterdob's] Reddit thread had better fuel suggestions – citronella torch cans with lamp oil and wicks, kerosene, or gel fuel would be better suited for these hot pumpkins.

If you still don’t believe how dangerous gas and its fumes can be, check out this video of a bonfire gone wrong (language warning).

Piezo Vacuum Pump for Lightweight Pick and Place

sucks If you’re building a pick and place machine, or even just a vacuum pen, you’ll need some way to pick up tiny part. This means something that sucks, aquarium tubing, and everything that goes with that. A few months ago, [Wayne] found an interesting device called a Micro Blower that will blow small amounts of air from a small, lightweight device. A few modifications later, and he had a piezoelectric vacuum pump for picking up tiny parts.

The Micro Blower [Wayne] found is available on Mouser for about $45, but this device blows. To turn it into something that sucks, he would need to find a way to block up the input side of the pump so it could draw a vacuum. Eventually settling on mounting the blower inside a stack of foam board, [Wanye] glued on a 20 gauge needle and was able to suck up 0603 SMD parts.

The new piezoelectric sucker is extremely light, and the power draw is very reasonable: 18V and 20mA. This would be a great device to mount to a certain pick and place machine without having to run vacuum lines through the mechanics of a motion platform. Video below.

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Hackaday Munich: DJ Muallem, Workshop Info, and More

Muallem

DJ Muallem

btn-get_ticketsIf you don’t have your ticket to the Hackaday Prize Party at Hackaday Munich you better scramble for one. We are excited to announce that [muallem] is the DJ for the event. He is the driving force behind the music at the Bob Beaman Club in Munich and is sure to deliver a set to remember. Don’t take our word for it, we’ve been cranking his Soundcloud channel for a couple of days now and it’s hard to wait the two weeks left before the party starts.

Workshop details whether you have a ticket or not

For those able to show up during the afternoon we have started to post details about the workshops. One point of confusion has been the All-day tickets versus the Workshop tickets. Here’s a rundown:

  • Workshop tickets were limited based on the hardware we are able to bring to the event with us.
  • All day tickets are welcome to participate in the workshops if you bring your own hardware to hack. Of course you are also welcome to come and watch, visit, or work on a completely separate hardware hack of your own!

If you have a ticket you’ll want to check out the details about getting a head start (by pre-loading embedded development software and learning a bit about the challenges). If you don’t have a workshop ticket we’re recommending hardware you can bring in order to participate.

So far we’ve posted about the Roboto and Moog workshops but will add details about Reverse Engineering and Computer Vision workshops soon!

The Hackaday Prize: Space Trip or Cash?

There has been a brewing debate about whether the winner of The Hackaday Prize (who will be revealed live at Hackaday Munich) will take the Trip to Space or grab the $196,418 in cash. Tell us which what you would do and why.

Reverse Engineering a Blu-ray Drive for Laser Graffiti

Coastermelt

There’s a whole lot of interesting mechanics, optics, and electronics inside a Blu-ray drive, and [scanlime] a.k.a. [Micah Scott] thinks those bits can be reused for some interesting project. [Micah] is reverse engineering one of these drives, with the goal of turning it into a source of cheap, open source holograms and laser installations – something these devices were never meant to do. This means reverse engineering the 3 CPUs inside an external Blu-ray drive, making sense of the firmware, and making this drive do whatever [Micah] wants.

When the idea of reverse engineering a Blu-ray drive struck [Micah], she hopped on Amazon and found the most popular drive out there. It turns out, this is an excellent drive to reverse engineer – there are multiple firmware updates for this drive, an excellent source for the raw data that would be required to reverse engineer it.

[Micah]‘s first effort to reverse engineer the drive seems a little bit odd; she turned the firmware image into a black and white graphic. Figuring out exactly what’s happening in the firmware with that is a fool’s errand, but by looking at the pure black and pure white parts of the graphic, [Micah] was able guess where the bootloader was, and how the firmware image is segmented. In other parts of the code, [Micah] saw thing vertical lines she recognized as ARM code. In another section, thin horizontal black bands revealed code for an 8051. These lines are only a product of how each architecture accesses code, and really only something [Micah] recognizes from doing this a few times before.

The current state of the project is a backdoor that is able to upload new firmware to the drive. It’s in no way a complete project; only the memory for the ARM processor is running new code, and [Micah] still has no idea what’s going on inside some of the other chips. Still, it’s a start, and the beginning of an open source firmware for a Blu-ray drive.

While [Micah] want’s to use these Blu-ray drives for laser graffiti, there are a number of other slightly more useful reasons for the build. With a DVD drive, you can hold a red blood cell in suspension, or use the laser inside to make graphene. Video below.

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Developed on Hackaday: The Answer is Below

mooltipass

In one month the Mooltipass offline password keeper project will be one year old.

We hope that our twice a month Developed on Hackaday series posts allowed our dear readers to see what are the steps involved in a device’s life, going from idea to prototype to crowdfunding-ready product. The Mooltipass is the fruit of a unique world-wide collaboration around open source, developed by and for security minded people who (for most of them) never saw each other. Relating our progress here enabled us to benefit from our readers’ feedback and make sure that we didn’t miss important wanted features. Contrary to other campaigns that we often debunk on Hackaday, we preferred to wait until we had a beta-tester approved device to move to the crowdfunding stage. Our geekiest readers will therefore find the launch date embedded in this post, other may want to subscribe to our official Google group to stay updated.

A Graphics Card for a Homebrew Computer

VGA

One of [aepharta]‘s ‘before I die’ projects is a homebrew computer. Not just any computer, mind you, but a fabulous Z80 machine, complete with video out. HDMI and DisplayPort would require far too much of this tiny, 80s-era computer, and it’s getting hard to buy a composite monitor. This meant it was time to build a VGA video card from some parts salvaged from old equipment.

When it comes to ancient computers, VGA has fairly demanding requirements; the slowest standard pixel clock is 25.175 MHz, an order of magnitude faster than the CPU clock in early 80s computers. Memory is also an issue, with a 640×480, 4-color image requiring 153600 bytes, or about a quarter of the 640k ‘that should be enough for anybody.’

To cut down on the memory requirements and make everything a nice round in base-2 numbers, [aepharta] decided on a resolution of 512×384. This means about 100k of memory would be required when using 16 colors, and only about 24 kB for monochrome.

The circuit was built from some old programmable logic ICs pulled from a Cisco router. The circuit could have been built from discrete logic chips, but this was much, much simpler. Wiring everything up, [aepharta] got the timing right and was eventually able to put an image on a screen.

After a few minutes, though, the image started wobbling. [aepharta] put his finger on one of the GALs and noticed it was exceptionally hot. A heatsink stopped the wobbling for a few minutes, and a fan stopped it completely. Yes, it’s a 1980s-era graphics card that requires a fan. The card draws about 3W, or about two percent of a modern, high-end graphics card.

Bluetooth-Enabled Danger Sign for Lab

Wireless Warning Sign

[A Raymond] had some free time at work, and decided to spend it on creating a wireless warning sign. According to his blog profile, he is a PhD student in Applied Physics. His lab utilizes a high-powered laser system. His job is to use said system, but only after it’s brought online by faculty scientists. The status of the laser system is changed by a manual switchbox that controls the warning signs wired around the lab entrances. Unfortunately, if you were in the upstairs office, you only knew this after running downstairs to check. [A Raymond's] admitted laziness finally got the better of him – he wanted a sign that displayed the laser’s status from the comfort of the office. He had an old sign he could use, but he wanted a way for it to communicate with the switchbox downstairs. After some thought, he decided Bluetooth was the way to go, using a pair of BlueSMiRF Bluetooth modules from Sparkfun and Arduino Uno R3’s.

He constructed a metal box that intercepted the cable from the main switchbox, mounting one BlueSMiRF and Uno into it. Upon learning that the switchbox sends 12V AC signals over three individual status wires, he half-wave rectified the wires and divided their voltages so that the Uno wouldn’t fry. Instead, it determined which status wire that had active voltage. and sent a “g(reen)”, “y(ellow)”, or “r(ed)” signal continuously via Bluetooth. On the receiving end, [A Raymond] gutted the sign and mounted the other BlueSMiRF and Uno into it along with some green, yellow, and red LEDs. The LEDs light up in response to the corresponding Bluetooth signal.

The result is a warning sign that is always up-to-date with the switchbox’s status. We’ve covered projects using Bluetooth before, from plush birds to cameras- [A Raymond's] wireless sign is in good company. He notes that it’s “missing” a high pitched whining noise when the “Danger” lights are on. If he decides to add an accompanying (annoying) sound, he couldn’t go wrong with something like this. Regardless, we’re sure [A Raymond] is happy that he no longer has to go back and forth between floors before he can use the laser.

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